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tv   Today in Washington  CSPAN  June 2, 2010 6:00am-7:00am EDT

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anyone outside of this room and people watching it on tv or their pcs not anything about that. now, having said that i'm already ready for transparency to pnt no. and 2.0 is going to as i was just in, much further and much beyond what the administration has done. and the outcome is always, as archon suggest, leveling the playing field. that's empowering nature of transparency which leads me to the third. i, as an advocate, cannot fight with my hands tied behind my back. information is my mechanism of getting my hands free to make the fight. whether it's about the be and what was happening on the flow of oil, or whether it'sabout the riser coming up and not sharing the informatn. whether it's about massey energy, whether it's about recovery act in terms of who's getting jobs and how much theye geing paid, what kind of support are they getting for wages and health care.
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i also want to know things like tax expenditur. who is geting the tax expenditures? why isn't that count as federal spending? why don't we know about those things? when norm eisen talked about the revolving door he talked about it in terms of lobbyists. i want to do in terms of the context of e revolving door of that culture where people at the middle-management service also ended up going to other companies are coming from companies into the government agency regulating bp. i think there is mh more we can do in trms of transparency, and i want my hands untied for the fight. >> thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> a great, great panel.
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we've been here for about three hours and 15 minutes, which is the average time for a baseball game. [laughter] >> this year. we have had bout, we've had eight innings of really interesting hits and fielding, and reay, if you listen carefully, you have learned a lot about a lot of different things and a lot of different poibilities and allow different policies that we need to be pursuing. so now it's a nice ending and it's time for the closers. and we have to do this, the closing for us to say okay, based on what we'veheard, based on what window, based on what's happening out there, what do we do, what we do to make hings move forward? and so we have carolyn lukensmeyer as the president of americaspeak one of e four sponsors of the event. and just a terrific person for listening, understand what's being really said, and taking us forward. and secondly, e.j. dionne, who people, who needs no introduction here at brookings for sure. but was one of the leading
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journalists and leading democracies i would say in our country. so let me ask carolyn and e.j. to come up and out for us. [applause] >> thank you very much, miles. let me add my thanks to brookings for having this evnt here, and to our compatriot organization, demos, and every day democracy and the ash institute for putting already two years worth of work into an id that, whose time we think may have come. every single person who is a leader of a democracy reform movement that i know, a you met exemplary examples of them here today, has from the time that i began working in this field, which is 15 years ago, made the following statements. that we believe, we believe
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there is a nascent movement in this country for a stronger democracy. a recognition that 200 plus years in, many, many other structures and processes about how institutions run, have evolved and changed dramatically. and yet the basic form, both of the electoral process in american democracy and the governance process in american democracy, has fundamentally not changed. and in those two instances where it has changed, and i'll take the term limits example that already got spoken about, we all understand the public's impulse to gain more ownership in their democracy. and, therefore, to want to limit the terms of the people wh represent them when they are dissatiied with the decisions that the people are making.
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i was chief of staff in the ste of ohio when that reform passed in that state. and many of us, although we understood the impulse, we respected the public for the impulse, but we ulave told you the day it passed what the actual impact in the state of ohio would be. only do. it would increase the power of the lobbyists and it would increase the power of staff. so the well-intentioned impulse of the publico gain ownership in their democracy actually took a stp backwards in terms of the efficacy of the reform. we think these four organizations that a fundamental dilemma about democracy reform in the united states is, number one, it's always outside of government, maybe until just recently. it's always underfunded, competing for the same resources.
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and, in fact, it's just like the old tale of the elephant. one of us is the trunk, one of us has the tale, somebody has the left. , summer has the right hind leg. we've all got pieces of a puzzle that have to be looked at systemically. has to be looked at systemical systemically. and it iin that spirit that we have attempted to build a coalition of a existing stream of democracy reform in the united state and said two things. this coalition of organizations, if we could in fact at least learn enough about one another's work so that at the right moment, you know, ameicaspeaks rks craig safe democratic spaces for people to influence public policy. but that doesn't meanat the right moment that we can't inform and educate our entire network and collaborators about the impact attention of citzens
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united, onven further decreasing the free safe space for democracy in the uned states. or i could take a flip example. 80 said this part of it the best. that he actually used the phrase at the end it whether it is voting rights are transparency, or racial equity, or whatever the issue is, we need to create a mighty river to push the reform. now, i have to admit not for a minute i got off centered by mr. mann insurance of my thoughts about how to summarize what i felt was important out of today. where he appropriately really push the issue, and i thought about ing the onion article myself. because it is true. people who hold positions in power inside washington today distrust the public as much as the public distrust washington.
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and ere are real reasons for that. but where i would go at the in of your starting place is, am going to take the senate se. if we're going to go through some decades in the united states in which we already i think and then through, where we basically ae whipsawed from one end of the super majority to the other end of the super majority, and don' actually advocate a systemic reform that we want, that the ountry wants, on the fundamental issues facing us. then the question isn't, so, therefore, should we be pushing for democracy reform, the quotient is a request even more structural reforms than most of us have been yet thinking about. it requiresven more radical thinking about what is the fundamental relationship between the american electorate and the institutions which, in fact, are how our democracy behaves both
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in elections and during governance. i'm going to take a moment and give a reflection on 15 years worth of americaspeaks. miles senate, tom said. we grew up to create large scale, pubic processes to bring the general interest public into debate on specific issues match to real decisions being made at that time. went to economic developer. went on health care refor we have done budget priorities, you name it, we have done it. there are four things, and part of our credibility to w are completely nonpartisan. we ourselves as an organization never take a position on the issue and never advocate for it. we are advocating that ordinary americans in this country should have more influence on policy. as an antidote against money to
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special interest influence on policy. there are four things. we've been doing this now, kind of scares me to realizethis, but a decade and have. i n't know the total number of projects we have done here and abroad, ankly, but let me speak only in america. four things that have happened in every single project we have ever done. number one, the radical solution on both the right and the left fall off the table in about 45 minutes. okay? doesn't matter which end of the spectrum, but when you get the total mix, the demographic reesented sample in the room, the radical solutions fall f quickly. the second and clarissa said this before. part of the american character, part of what is unique about us, is we want to solve problems.
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in every case, when given the safety and free space to have a discussion, these same americans are quite capable of coming to a collective decision. they do it literally every time. and now, something tat is is a known about us anymore, ad that i would posit, we have lost a sense of this, partly because we no longer have national media processes that help us stay up-to-date with what i would call a really inclusive national narrative. our national media processes, as they become more fractured and become more individually, focus on the polarization, and thas what reverberates around the country, continually, and kill americans believe it about themselves. but if you cut all that out, and you put people, and it's about health care, it's about the
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financial crisis, it's about fiscal sustainability, when you bring us togeer in a room, in large numbers, we have done it as large as 10,000 at a time spanning cities all across the country, the fact of the matter isthe vast majority of americans, and i want you to listen carefully to this, still feel responsible for the common good. got that? we're noas need be. we ae not as self-centered as 20 years of the drumbeat has said aout us. i'm going to come back to that point. in the last piece, and i think this is really good news. and the last piece, in every case, decision makers actually listen. decision-makers are actually influenced bywhat people collectively come up with as an
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outcome to a polic choice. in every case that we have done this, when the public is asked at the end, i might use an example of health reform in california, not so long ago which could have been sadly ended up not being instructed in the country's process. in the end, when people were asked for the reforms they supported, and of all ofyour r my with, employed mandate, individual mandate, getting rid of preexisting conditions, the public option, when put in front of them, real numbers on the california budget office, about their willingness to pay for these reforms, they overwhelmingly voted to raise their own taxes to pay for the reform. that is ou our experiencegain in every case. but i want to make very clear the paradox where income and it's exactl what clarissa said earlier today. these very same people, if you tracked down, when they get into
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the lectoral cycle and they're fed slogans, set it to demonize the other party or the other person, these very same people who, in august of 2007, voted to raise their taxes to produce health care reform in california would by definition vote in a very anti-tax mode. same person. people's behavior is very much influenced by the social systemic structures by which they are surrounded. and for as long as we are dealing with the superficial of politics, as we're dealing with in the electoral cycle, we will never get out of the mess we're in about supposedl the public not bein willing to make the tough choices on cutting spending and raising taxes to do with whatever it is we want them to deal with. so we see the glamorous of the solutions, whether it is campai public financing of campaigns, the glimmers, the
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experimentation of solutions to the issues that we've been talking about up here all day today. they are already there. some of them actually well researched. transparency will be the nxt, i'm sure, to get that level of in depth look at how much change has been actually produced. but the challenge is, how can we form, you know, w used to call it when i was chief of staff was, you don't get the big systemic changes without an honest to god authentic link between public will and political will. and when you get that authentic link, which ever party is in power at that moment in time, you get systemic change. so, i want to say three things. millions of americans today are out there every day doing the
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behaviors that were listed as a broader statement about what does it take to be a healthy democracy. people caring for each other, performing community service, organizing around an issue they care about, taking part in a community meetin going one more time to the bloody school board meeting though i have done it three to imes before, boating, writing. you just listed out. literally, we could see on a multiple screen millions of americans are behaving that way every single day. behaving democratically. our challenge, and remember, i also told, the same americans are behaving uninformed, voting against their own interests when a different, strong signal is sent their way. so where should our efforts before reform at this point in time? not exhorting individuals so much to change their behavior.
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always inspiring them when we can pick by focusing on what are those systemic structure and process changes that we could be making today that would, in fa, support the abotion of erican democracy. you know, what are my personal favorites and not one i'm working on, but can you imagine that is us, it is us who is in the bottom in 11 countries around the world in terms of moving toward universal voter registration. we should be embarrassed, ashamed, go for it, but you can list your own favorite ones. the point is, and it's w we're here togethe is there a way that your organization, your institution, to join the 50 or so others who have put a stake in the ground and are trying to work as effectively with the current administration, the current congress to say, there are a specific number of things we could do that would
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strength our nation's democracy, that would make it easier for congress men and women to take courageous stands from time to time, and that would inspire more americans to stay engaged on an ongoing basis. i want to say just one last thing, and i don't know that i even would have thought about it, except john mentioned it earlier. when we held a conference last summer, i think to a person, and many, manyarticipants said that the very most inspiring moments of that conference were listening to our colleagues from india,inland, estonia, i don't even remember all where, talking about the level of commitment, the level of intent, and the level of progress being made around the world about evolving the structures of democracy. i think where we're caught pretty natural, just think about as yourself as a human being. you know, when you're really, really good at something, you get a little arrogant about it.
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you have a lot of hubris about it, and i think that's a place we've been really stuck in american democracy. becausof what an extraordinary gift that our constitution and bill of rights put together at that time, that placewas. we, as a culture, carry a huge amount of hubris about our own democracy. we need to take the scales off. we need to catch up to the fact that if particularly among the markets in eastern europe, in south africa and many other african nations, in latin america, these kinds of democracy rforms movements are actually financed and initiated from inside the government. he they are very much till pushefrom outside the government. and a healthy democracy you want both. because we concluded to be examples, probably particularly in latin america where by the factthey're coming out of government, by definition means
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whole subcultures in the country still feel excluded. but the point is, we think, for organizations that are here today joining with brookings to say its time for a broad-based democracy reform initiative, which builds theoalition of the very sparse that work inside the beltway, and need to work inside the beltway, and rededicate itself to discovering the national narrative that actually matches the instinct that already exists amongst millions ofamericans, that we n do better than we are doing today. 90. [applause] >> i want to thank carolyn for the inspiring talk.
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i also want to note that miles referred to baseball and the average length of games. i'm a red sox fan. [laughter] spirit as you on the red sox-yankees games last about four and half hours that i will not take all the time here. for those of you who know my dear home state, we believe devoutly in political participation. the late mary mcquarrie, great columnist from the "washington post" and before that he washington star, once said that every baby born in massachusetts is born with a campaign managers gene. we like policy so much that kids used to put up her stickers on their bikes here now, this does not always match with honest government. i think there is a lesson here, that we should not always pretend that participation automatically leads to honesty. we used to joke in massachusetts that there were politicians whose election slogan, whether explicit or implicit was on a
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state is no substitute for experience. [laughter] >> and i have always loved the story of the gentlemen in springfield 70 miles to boston who was writing his will, and said that, in a cohesive normal things in will entities if you want to be buried in a cemetery 70 miles from where he lived it and it turned out that the cemetery was in the district a legendary state senator who regularly managed to get turnouts about 100%. in the precincts he controlled. and the prince and why do you want to be buried in boston? and he replied, i see no reason why my death should deprive me of my right to participate in the democratic process. now i want to make very clear, no one involved in this event believes in that approach to democracy, but i also want to make clear, t is seen as a door and humorless lot and yes, reformers to have a sense of humor, even about democracy if so. i want to salute miles and demos
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and all the groups involved here. i'm going to say this at the end as well. for aking democracy a centerpiece of what they're up to four try to make democracy itself a centerpiece of our national debate. and that's why we at brookin are very hppy to join in with this effort. i do want to thank brookings christine jacobs o did so much work on this, john, emily, darrell west, and tom mann. and i think when we think about democracy, it's important to remember, john to his famous stement that democracy isn't simply a system. it is assembly a set of formal practices. democracy is a wy of life. democracy and false values, and i will just mention two of those. it is based on a small our republican spirit that sees citizens not just simply as passive recipients of services, but as responsible actors defying and solving problems and
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looking out, not only for their own interest, but also for a common good. and democracy is rooted in a small d democratic spirit that honors the equity of all citizens and sees wisdom as rising up from the bottom and not simply, or primarily, something that is imposed from the top. now i was trained more as a political sociologist and a political scientist, so i want to put down as an aside, and i will get back tothis, that institutions matter, but ieas also matter. and social and economic underpinnings of political systems also matter. if we get the last two wrong, even the best structures that we could create will nowork right. now i was sitting, i was blessed today sitting next to my friend, gayle, gale, i hope you don't mind my site here, who lead over at one point at the beginning of
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me and said said, somewhere in the country our friends i the tea party movement are having a meeting on exactly the same question, is government broken? now, i want to say right away that i hear a lot from tea party folks who tend, as it happens to disagree with what i write more than agree wh it, but i want to report that tea party members do have a fine sense of human. recently as a protest against something i will, i have gotten something like 75 teabags in the mail sent by the protesters. and one person wrote that she was trying to figure out what teabags she said send to a columnist. and she sent me a bag of constant comment. [laughter] >> another said i was trying to figure out what's appropriate to what you think, and sent me a tea bag of french for no. so i say god bless them.
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disagreement is actually one of the joys of freedom and democracy. and we don't always pay attention to that fact. so yes, it's true, in many different people might say government is broken. but i think it's a mistake to pretend that everyone is angry about the same thing. i think it's a mistake to pretend that everyone has the same solutions. yes, there are some overlapping views, and we should try to discover those areas where some reforms might bring us together. but they're also big differences over what needs to be fixed. some i the tea party movement, for example, want to repeal the 17th amendment and in the direct election of united states senators. that would make us less democratic. ansome in the tea party, and this is a matter printable for them, i think really do value states rights over direct democracy. now that is not a view, i suspect, that is widely shared in this room.
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it actually divided the tea party it's a. so in addition to understanding thate have some forms of anger in common, i also think we need a big argument about democracy and about how we see it. and i only wish that martha mccoy could moderate the argument every time it happens. because i've never seen someone present such a joyful spirit about this form of civic engagement that you would make everybody feel bad as they screamed at each other and tossed teabags were other things at each other. [laughter] >> for what it's worth, i think that our government does need substantial improvement and renovation, but i don't think it's broken in the sense that it is incapable of producing outcomes that are or can be, in fact, in the public interest. as i think we are releasing examples where, despite a lot of struggle, our government has produced some decent outcomes.
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and i think there is a cause for those of us who believe in reform if we continually tell such tales of woe that we send a message that everything we have tried in the past has failed. in fact, we are better off today than because of the civil rights act of 1964. we are better off today a test of the voting rights act of 1965. we are better off because we extended the right to vote for those 18 years or older. campaign-finance reform, contrary to all its citics, worked at her, far better and quite well, far better than they give it credit for and worked quite well for many years and it would work even better still absent certain number of court decisions that actually limit the risk of the democratic branches of our government to enact reform. america, in fact has steadily become more democratic since the
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founding of our republic, the historian sean wrote a wonderful book on our first 100 years tracing this rise of democracy. the growth of democracy. we should not want to go back to 1789. we should want to build a generations of struggle on behalf of democracy. we should not thing that we persuade anyone by saying something like our programs have failed, let us continue. that just doesn't work as an aument. and, in fact, it not even true. we have to say that reform has worked before, and it can work again. let us build on our successes. and also, let's remember that in a democracy government is not the realm of them. is the realm of us. following tom mann's reading from "the onion" i want to shre what barney frank once told a
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very angry town meeting. you look at this angry crowd finally anhe said, you know, we politicians are no great shakes, but you voters are no day at the bach either. [laughter] >> now you can tell from that that barnett represents a very, very safe district. in massachusetts. but i do think that we need to be astough on ourselves, and yes, i inclde my media self in saying this. we neeto be as tgh on ourselves as we are on the politicians. again, martha mccoy was absolutely right in saying that we nd to make the public sphere more inviting. we need to listen to each other better. we need to be more realistic out what we expect from government, and in the things that we sy. and yes, i love clear misses comment that people are dying to get into the very government
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that they think is broken. that was one of the contradictions that i was so grateful that she pointed to. just a word on false choices in ouinconsistency. to classic political scientist, lloyd and hadley, described america's as ideological conservatives and operational liberals. that means that in principle we say all the time that we can't stay in government d in practice we say we want a whole lot of things from government. i think that contradiction, or let's ll it attention within us, can be misleading when we try to talk about politics. and so we have a bunch of silly arguments. more or less governnt lacks well, people tend to want more vernment in the spheres that help them, and less government in the sphere that helps soeone else. t really, we don't, we're not at all consistent when we have
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that argument. ght now were having a debate between stimulus and defic reduction. my own view is unique stimulus now, deficit reduction later. why is it so hard to have this conversation in a straightforward way? but we can't. we need good governmt and we need participation. we need expertise, and many democracy. why d we cast democracy as the enemy of expertise? if you think of this oil spill, we really do need expertise that we apparently lack to stop this oil from flowing into the gulf. and yet, if we had had more participation in the whole process of debating offshore il drilling, i bet you, if i may sound like a former governor of alaska, i bet you, i bet you that the pubic with as the oil company, are you ready with a worst-case e-mail? and many experts who have come together, and we might not be we
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are today. so expertise and democracy are not at odds. good government is not at odds with participation. another one very popular now, the free market versus socialism. socialism is under so much attack, i am inclined to endorse it periodically. [laughter] >> but i think most americans believe, in fact, in reward for creativity, for hard work, and for entrepreneurship and i'm paraphrasing a letter writer recently to the "washington post." but they also believe in rules and regulations to protect consumers and workers and the environment. they also believe in social insurance probe trams, to protect individuals and families from bad luck and hard times. now, does this make and capitalist or socialist? think we're all capitalist into capitalism stops working, and then we sound a little bit like socialists that never admit it. and we just say w endorse the
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social protections. i always come back to something that bl cohen, when his republican senator from maine said, he said, government is the enemy until you need a friend. and i think if we remember that during our aguments, we might beetter off and be a little more rational. and one member of the audience asked that this be put on the table come and i think it is worth putting on the table. in the circumstance of globalization,democracy is really challenged. becauseemocracy exists within the boundaries of nation states, and globalization kind of overrides the power of nationstates. there is no simple solution to this, but i do think that you care about democracy, you've got to start, we got to start thinking about what democracy means in this new global circumstance. i want to turn to some of the specifics we talked about today, and then close againcoming back
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to democracy. there are so many interesting and good roposals in this paper, and that were raised today. i can over all of them, but i do want to say somebody raise the national popular vote. is a great idea. some of you are active in this. the idea is to create a compact among states represent a majority of electoral votes, and get enough stes pass and then they all agree to cast their electoral votes on behalf of the popular vote winer. i do believe that the experience, the experience of the to battle election turn me into a supporter of the popar vote, not simply because the outcome would have been better from i dare political point of view, but imagine four years later, john kerry came within one of thousand those of carrying ohio. you could have had a result where president bush won the popular vote by about 2 million had lost the electoral vote. so i think all of us, whatever our politics, haveto think
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about the fact that th electoral college as crently constructed is a problem waiting to happen again. and i hope that discussion inners, comes onto the table. it wasn't mentioned today, but there's a lot of talk about the alternative though, which i think is something that is worth discussing. fusion voting is another idea where parties can endorse, cross and endorse candidates. i would say that fusion voting has been in effect in new york for many, many years, and i don't know a single new yorker was happy with the government at the moment. nonetheless, i think it's worth to talk about. i'm glad the issue of senate reform was raise. yes, we are very inconsistent about this when your site in the majoty do of having to get 60 votes. when you are into mr. georgiou hate having to get 60 votes. there is something very, very wrong with this, especlly in the united states senate that is so unrepresentative of the country as a whole. where you can secure 41 votes from senators representing about
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15 -- i seem seem to never done a couple giveaways. 15 to 20% of the american population. there really is something wrong here. i would favor much more radical reform of the senate itself. that's not on the table now but i think it is nt an accident that the senate is at the center of the discussion of thos who care about democracy, because it is in many ways the least democratic body in our vernment. we talked about some titles that i think campaign finance is a good area where we face a really difficult windows. isaiah, the phisopher sid that the hardest choices are not between good and evil, but between competing goods. and i think as we search for ways for reform in the electoral system, the campaign-finance system, i think we want to balance between limiting special interests power with the desire to finance politics adequately, and remote brought participation in political action.
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now i think that can involve some real, some restriction on thpowerof big money, particularly the effort to build a fence around this i think horrific citizens united decision. but also create strong incentives for small donors. so we can expand the base of participation and have candidates themselves, who have a much stronger interest in pursuing small money, rather than big money. nick represeed here the option of the public option, if you will, in campaign spending that exist in arizona and some ther states. i would like to see more experimentatn with it. i think it is a good system, but i think the idea of trying to create very strong incentives for mass participation would be a very good idea. research and reform, yes. we are doing that. but let's not pretend that this will and polarization. since as americans we don't ev seem to like to live near people
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we disagree with anymore. the great buy for the austin american-statesman foud that counties produce big landslides on both sides, even in close elections. i am as guilty as this as a way. my precinct voted 80% for barack obama. there were a lot of people who live in precincts that voted 80% r john mccain. yes redistricting reform but let's not prtend that this will and polarization in politics. and i want to offer martha challenge here. because i love what she is talking about. and i have always wanted change of bars and grills t have special political evenings. you know, applebes or chili's or thank god it's friday, that would invite people i thought folks have a drink presidential debates. i would love him to invite people from both sides to have
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discussions. mayb you can have a half our presentation beforehand that would include a little rachel matter, a little riley, a little overman. also a letter their news are. some of my friends on npr. and then kick off the conversation that would at least try to bring people together. politics needs to be fun. i think oneof my biggest criticism of the way we deal with politics is we get so serious about that we forget in our history, politics was once a great form of mass entertnment. people what to political rallies for goodness sake, because they like seeing their friends. they like getting together. we have lost the fun in politics, and so because i have noted that you have such a warm spirit, and charging you with restoring fun. [laughter] >> and politics. and gary bass, all journalists are for transparency and disclosure. so i salute you and your work. i also salute you for your work
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on behalf of social justice. but i also salute you for noting that transparency isn't te solution all by itself. we need to create a political climate in which people actually allow the facts to play a central role in their argument. we might at least commit to that. together. [applause] >> above all, i want to salute demos again for putting democracy at the heart of our national discussion. some people said that the problem of democracy is too much democracy, too much participation of those who supposedly don't know enough. i don't take that you. i stand with al smith, that most of the problems of democracy can be solved by more democracy, by more and more serious enagemen engagement, by expanded participation. and by the fed, it's really a monastery, that most flippant
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people are right most of the time. i really and truly believe that. and i believe fromall the democrats have to believe that. i nt to close with the words, he spoke 20 years ago to the u.s. cgress after democracy came to czechoslovakia. and here's what he said. . .
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and even into wh as good small democrats we will always exercise our god-given rights to mplain and to criticize and to fight to make things better. thank you very much. [applause] [applause] >> thank you very much, and, once again, thank you to brookings for hosting us to share of our notions about coalition for a stronger decracy in our nion. redo hope that each of you will pick up the recommendatis that he held up a few minutes ago and figure out if there is a way your organization could participate dan partner in this coalition procesand i think it's a fair statement that we know our work will never be done a. >> , to say i was looking over my notes and i totally forgot whh i had scribbled in a margin to mention a whole issue
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of voting reform. and i think that's importt because having told the joke about massachusetts i want to say the's something strange that we are far more worried about fraud of which happens quite rarely than we are two all the obstacles we put in t way of voting. my colleague might may be the only people who believe in compulsory voting like in australia, we have a lot of barriers but the notion that our government does all kinds of things to keep track of us can't manage to help us get registered to vote is a problem and am sorry to slip by that in my notes. >> thank you. if your last comments here the most unborn is to thank you for coming today. [applause] and just to let you know that the coalition's next conference will begin an international conference is the last quarter of this year orhe first quarter of next year.
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thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conv [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2010]
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>> thursday, three democrats face off in north carolina force the state governor. -- for the state governor. they will participate in an hour-long debate hosted by wbtw. that begins its 7:00 p.m. eastern. nbooktv continues today with a look at politics. john hill on political centralism and the role of government in our lives. we have a tufts university professor. that is on c-span 2. on this morning's "washington journal," it represented a from
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the center for american progress will discuss the bp oil spill. after that, a new york university press up -- professor. later, an update on a tax package that congress has been working on. "washington journal" each morning on c-span. later on c-span 2, warren buffett testifies before the financial crisis inquiry. he will talk about the reliability of credit rating agencies. live coverage begins at 8:30 eastern. attorney general are colder confirmed -- attorney-general eric holder confirmed there has been criminal activity in the oil spill. this is about 10 minutes.
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>> the president reiterated that the primary task is to stop the leak and help the people in the region get back on their feet
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and continue to their normal lives. as we have said all along, we must also ensure that anyone found responsible for the oil spill is held accountable. that means enforcing the appropriate settled and, if warranted, criminal authorities to the full extent of law. we saw oil for more -- miles and miles. this is all we know has already affected plant and animal life along the coast and has impacted the lives and livelihood of all too many in this region. this disaster is nothing less than a tragedy. there is one thing that i will not let be forgotten in this incident. this must not be forgotten. in addition to the extensive cost to our environment and communities along the gulf coast, the initial explosion and fire took the lives of 11 oil
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rig workers. 11 lives lost. this we must never forget. as we examine the causes of the explosion and the subsequent oil spill, i want to assure the american people that we will not forget the price that those workers paid. during the early stages of their response efforts, i sent a team of attorneys and the head of our civil division to norland to help our abbott's to protect the people who work and reside near the gulf but also the american taxpayers, the environment, and the abundant wildlife in this region. i have been working diligently to gather facts and court may the government's legal response. as we move forward, we will be guided by some relatively simple principles. we will in short that every ce
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nt of taxpayer money will be repaid in damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed. we will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restored or replace the natural resources that were lost or injured in this tragedy. we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who has violated all law. we will prosecute anyone who has violated the law. among the many statutes that we are reviewing include the clean water act which carries civil penalties and fines as well as criminal penalties. the oil pollution act of 1990 which can be used to all parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts. the migratory bird and treat and species act provides compensation for death to
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different species. there are a wide range of possible violations on the statutes and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in the oil spill. if we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response. we already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster. as our review expense in the days ahead, we will be meticulous. we will be comprehensive. we will be aggressive. we will not rest until justice is done. while the federal government continues to focus on stopping the leak and responding to the environmental disaster, the department just as will ensure that the american people do not foot the bill for this disaster and our laws are enforced to the fullest extent possible. that is our responsibility and
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we will do nothing less. we would be more than glad to respond to any of your questions. >> [unintelligible] >> we have begun a criminal as well as a civil investigation as is our obligation under the law. our environmental laws are very clear. we have a responsibility to enforce them. we will do so. at the same time, we're mindful of the government's first priority and that is to stop the oil spill and to clean up the oil. we are taking the steps necessary to enforce our laws while insuring that we do nothing to jeopardize that response effort. there is a predicate to have both a criminal and civil investigation. we have what we think is a sufficient basis to begin a criminal investigation.
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>> [unintelligible] >> that is a part of the mix that we will be considering. there are federal charges that can include a wide range of things that have happened with regard to everything from birds who have been harmed, killed, the spell itself -- the spell itself, and the 11 dead workers. >> what about what role we might have played? mms [unintelligible] how do you reconcile that? >> we will look at the lawsuits
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that have been filed and take what action is appropriate. i want to emphasize today that the focus of our efforts is on making sure that we act in a way that is consistent with the cleanup and we are responsible in doing what we can to make sure we hold accountable the people responsible for the oil spill. i don't want to describe who is exactly is under investigation at this point. . the investigation has been going for some time but i would not want to specify at this point who the subject of that investigation are. we are not in a position yet we're we have come to conclusions -- where we have come to conclusions as to was libel and i don't want to cast aspersions. the investigation has been on going but we are not near the end of that investigation.
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it began some weeks ago. >> [unintelligible] >> we have these two divisions, the civil division and the environmental division. we have investigative agents from a variety of agencies that work in the federal government that are included, including the fbi. we are taking the full weight of our investigative capabilities to look at this matter so that we can resolve this as quickly as we can. we want to do so in a way that does that have a negative impact on the cleanup effort. >> is your focus more environmental? [unintelligible] >> i don't think i would want to
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differentiate other than the investigation we have begun is comprehensive and we would look at a wide range of things, everything from false statements to the way in which certain entities conducted themselves. there is really nothing that is off the table at this point. >> [unintelligible] >> as i said, we have begun a criminal investigation and that threshold has been passed. we have to feel there is a significant predicate for us to open a criminal investigation. that threshold has been passed. these are all u.s. attorneys from washington. we just met with the state attorneys general from
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mississippi, alabama, and we have the attorney general from texas, as well, and louisiana. we just met with them. we can safely say we are all on the same page. we are dedicated to assuming this action and all things in concert with one another. we want to be most efficient in protecting the people we are sworn to serve. >> [unintelligible] >> there are actions that have been taken and we have been courting them and we will be coordinating them to a greater degree as a result of the meeting which just concluded and the steps we have put in place for future interaction. >> are public of-- our public affairs content is available on- line and you can sign up there
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are scheduled alerts e-mails @ >> "washington journal" is next and we will take your calls. later this morning, prime minister david cameron goes before the house of commons for his first session. after that, former bush administration attorney general john ashcroft will discuss interrogation techniques and the legal rights of terrorism suspect carried live coverage from the heritage foundation begins at 11:00 eastern. coming up this hour, the center for american progress tries as for the response to the bp oil spill. after that, a new york university professor on ways to streamline the federal government. later, an update on a tax later, an update on a tax


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